The number of people over 65 who live alone has passed the 4 million milestone new figures(1) reveal.

Overall the number of people living alone has reached 8.7 million, meaning that about one in three of all homes are single person households. In 2005 twenty nine per cent of homes were single person households. In 1971 it was 20 per cent.

Now older people who live alone are to be offered a friendly weekly phone call from phone and broadband company TalkTalk. The free service, called We’ll Call You, is designed to provide older people a guaranteed weekly natter.

The calls will be made by TalkTalk staff. It is hoped that each team caller will form a bond with their We’ll Call You contacts.

The nature of the calls, which last no more than five minutes, is up to the contact; they can use them to discuss the news, gossip about the week’s TV or just to have a chat about whatever takes their fancy. They can also ask their TalkTalk caller to look up information for them about local services.

At the very least the caller will check that everything is all right. They will never use the call to sell a TalkTalk product or service.

“We’re not trying to replace social services and charities but our research shows that the service we’re providing meets a need which is not currently being met,” said TalkTalk’s communications director Mark Schmid. “With the number of older people living alone passing the four million mark the launch of our service is very timely.

“Knowing that there will be a phone call from a friendly, familiar voice at a fixed time each week and that you can talk to them about anything you like is something that a lot of people value.

“We install communications equipment in millions of homes and our next generation network carries billions of bits of data every day, but for many people, the most important piece of communications ‘kit’ is a human voice. The We’ll Call You service is designed to ensure everyone has someone to chat to at least once a week.”

TalkTalk is the UK’s biggest provider of broadband to homes.

Editors’ notes

To set up a We’ll Call You service call 0203 417 1008 or visit http://broadband.talktalk.co.uk/we-love-the-web/well-call-you The service is capped to the first 50 customers for three months, after which we will review demand

Analysis based on ONS data and ONS projections. ONS data shows the total number of 65 plus people living alone in 2008 was 3.75 million. The proportion of people 75 plus living alone grew 8.5 per cent between 2004 and 2008 while the proportion of 65-74 year olds living alone remained steady. Assuming the same trends over the past two years and taking into account ONS’s projected increase in the 65 plus population of 1.53 per cent the total number of 65 plus people living alone in 2010 is just over 4 million.